Category Archives: Ottawa

Is it too soon to talk Municipal Elections in Ottawa?

Ottawa VotesHere it is November, we are almost at the end of Ottawa’s run where all things #Canada150 overshadowed what was being talked at in City Hall. With the end of 2018 we’ll see the dismantling of the #Canada150 Flame at City Hall and business of the City come more into focus.

There are serious items that will linger through to the Municipal elections in Ottawa in 11 months.

Mayor Jim Watson has campaigned on 2% or less for property tax increases. The problem with 2% property tax increases is that everything else has increased almost triple the rate of property taxes. Water fees, sewage fees all increased and are budgeted for large increases through the next five years as the City looks for revenues it can’t raise with a 2% property tax rise.

Watson’s rationale is not that different from Provincial and Federal Liberals that are “lowering” income taxes, but increases other necessary costs, like Hydro negate any reduction in taxes because any gain in disposable incomes is lost on higher hydro rates and carbon taxes put on the cost of gas at the pumps.   But Jim Watson will campaign on low property taxes and avoid any talk of higher water, sewage and user fees.

What will dog Watson are his views on safe injection sites and funding illegal pop up site. The safe injection site in Sandy Hill was given the federal go ahead, but that did not stop an unauthorized pop up site from appearing in a Lowertown park. This prompted the Ottawa Health Officer to opening a ‘legal’ temporary site on Clarence Street.   The illegal pop up site continues to operate even though its original mandate was to have a permanent site available to prevent deaths by overdose.

The irony here is that ‘conservative’ Mayor John Tory in Toronto is looking more progressive that ‘liberal’ Mayor Jim Watson in Ottawa. There will be calls for the City and the Mayor to accept money from the Province the same money Kathleen Wynne gave Toronto for its pop up site to be able to operate in the cold.

I also expect to see Jim Watson try to ride the shiny sparkly new LRT to another 4 years at City Hall. He better hope that it goes as planned, that sinkholes don’t create any unseen drops in his popularity. He is no doubt still very popular, but with urban councillors like Catherine MacKenney (Somerset Ward) and Jeff Leiper (Kitchissippi Ward) pushing a more progressive agenda, those councillors and perhaps others that want to see the City spend more on social services will look past Jim Watson for support. Sadly we may not see just who will challenge Watson for a few more months.

There were changes to municipal election for 2018. In previous election cycles candidates could register to run in the early weeks of the year. New rules now put any registering for the election at May 1st, four full months before in previous elections. This rule puts incumbents in the fundraising driver seat, as there can be no fundraising for a campaign before the candidate in registered. With the delayed registration date, incumbents no longer have to stress about announcing early.

The change in registration date will have a serious impact on challengers hoping to put up a strong effort against an incumbent. Losing four months of fundraising will drive some away from the challenge. The biggest financial impact may be on those that want to run for the Mayor’s chair.

In play for what could be tight race for Mayor are Bay Ward Councillors Mark Taylor, Diane Deans and former Ottawa Centre MP, and son of former Mayor Marion Dewar, Pal Dewar. Mark Taylor campaigned in 2010 to being a two-term councillor will he keep that promise. He is currently one of two deputy Mayors. If his good friend Watson decides not to run, he’d expect to pick up all of the current Mayor’s support. If Watson seeks re-election, Taylor could be in a jam as he campaigned in 2010 to only be a councillor for two terms.

Diane Deans, a Councillor for the Southern ward of Gloucester Southgate is also conserved a sure thing to run for the Mayor’s chains. She has the needed experience, as she has been a sitting Councillor since 1994. She has had verbal jousts with the Mayor in the past, especially this current term. Deans may see 2018 as her last chance to run for the top job, it could be the run for the Mayor’s chair or retirement for her.

Mayor Jim Watson’s biggest challenge may come from outside council. If Justin Trudeau can fill the position his father did, why can’t Paul Dewar follow his mother? Marion Dewar was Ottawa Mayor from 1978 to 1985 and a councillor from 72 before becoming Mayor. Where Watson would in previous elections be seen as the ‘progressive’ candidate – he’d look like a Larry O’Brien Conservative, if he has to run against Paul Dewar. A successful NDP MP in Ottawa Centre, he would be a dream candidate for progressives seeking greater funding for housing, opioid life saving programs and reducing homelessness in Ottawa.

As the New Year comes we’ll have to wait longer than normal to see who will challenge, who will retire and who will seek another four years. While Mayor Watson has announced he will run again ( https://redheartbluesign.wordpress.com/2017/03/17/the-first-shot-has-been-fired/) all eyes will be on him as the May 1st registration deadline approaches to see if he really meant it or not.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net

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When did it become legal to do illegal things?

When did it become all right to break the law? When did good intentions become the alibi to commit a crime?

Overdose Prevention Ottawa (OPO) popped up in a park in the Vanier Quarter of Ottawa as a protest to the City’s lack of address in the opioid crisis in the city. The City of Ottawa had been approved for a Safe Injection Site (SIS) and a site in Sandy Hill is being prepared for opening. The OPO was the organizers response to address a need that could not wait until the permanent SIS was open.

The OPO opened without the required permissions – the route the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre completed for the SIS, and it is unlikely they even tried. The politicians and Ottawa Police are playing ping-pong with the issue as calls to the police from area residents are met without any police response. The Police have stated that the owner of the park, the City of Ottawa, must direct the police to take action, clearly there has been no request made from the city. Ottawa By-Law may have been called in but again it is unsure if any tickets were issued. Meanwhile for several hours a day a park, designed for family use, is a spot for illicit drug users.

The opioid crisis is real and needs to be addressed in the serious manner it deserves.

Following the OPO showing up Ottawa Public Health indicated that prior to the opening of the SIS in Sandy Hill, a temporary site would open in the Byward market, not far from where the OPO popped up. Since the OPO pop up site was created to fill a gap until the SIS was open and the prevention of overdose deaths could be addressed immediately, there was every expectation that when the temp site on Clarence St opened we would see OPO fold up.

Nope, they’re still there, without required permissions in the same park that is now is seeing calls from residents to police about addicts on front steps go unanswered.   OPO has indicated they will pop up elsewhere in Ottawa, again without any permits.

What is to happen to the Clarence St. temporary site when the SIS is open? I predict it won’t close. The City, under pressure from OPO will keep it open as a satellite of the Sandy Hill SIS.

When did committing illegal acts become legal and unpunishable?

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can follow me at www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I occasionally post about the little things in life I see and do.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net

Confessions of a Casual Commuter Cyclist

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I am the most casual of casual commuter cyclists. Riding into work, I now find the 20 minute walk too long. I have no idea how long into the fall I will ride and don’t know what my cold temperature threshold will be for my fingers and face. The moment I have to start bundling up to stay warm on the cycle into the office might be the sign I will need that walking is the preferred way to go.

I have been cycling into work for most of the summer now; I credit that to my pocket book. I paid for over $170 for a $49.95 tune up – mainly because my bike is old and in the 15 or so years I have had it, it never received the care or attention it deserved/needed. This year I did and thanks to the good folks at Kunstadt Sports on Bank in the Glebe I was ready for a summer of biking. Because of the tune up I feel a lot safer on my bike.

Liz and I have made good use of the bikes this year, Monday to Friday and on weekends. The only (small) sacrifice I have made is not to make the daily stop into Starbucks as I would if I was walking to the office. I have avoided so far (knock on wood) getting stuck in a rain storm, colliding with another bike and I have stayed clear of scratching any cars whether it was my fault or theirs.

Generally I am happy with being able to get around the City of Ottawa on my bike. I haven’t had to worry about cars too much as drivers are as polite to me as I cycle as I am to other cyclists when I am driving. The path system is good, there a missing links and from what I can see Ottawa is trying to make the connections. Some intersections are worrisome; the Wellington St. /Sussex Ave. /Mackenzie Ave. at the Chateau Laurier is nerve rattling. We have made it through there a few times, but seeing how try not to get trapped in that area does make you think twice. There is some confusion in the approach the new lanes along Mackenzie Avenue on the west side of the US Embassy, especially as you come from the National Art Gallery of Canada. I still don’t feel at ease on the O’Connor dual lane, I would have preferred lanes that went with the flow of traffic – south on O’Connor and North on Metcalfe St. or Kent St. These examples aside, Ottawa has been doing a good job.

I am not perfect as a cyclist, however as a driver (of a car) I have a good sense of rules and the reason they need to be followed. Being a good and courteous driver makes for a good and courteous cyclist. I have noticed a few things while in the saddle – these are just observations of how cyclists can do their part to stay alive.

Use hand signals correctly. I recently learned that cyclists can indicate turning right by sticking out their right arm. I still use the left arm method to show I am turning right. On the left and right arm pointing signals I have seen too many cyclists pointing to the ground – is that their way of telling me you are turning right or look out for a pothole? Come on, if you are going to indicate turns that way, do it with conviction! Point with pride!

Follow the traffic lights. Not watching the lights is becoming a problem on the O’Connor Street lanes. Cyclists are running reds, not stale green lights but RED lights! This morning at Laurier and O’Connor an incident was avoided when alert cyclists saw the red light running biker before they headed west on Laurier. If that had been a car, there would have been bike bells ringing and obscene hand gestures and yelling at the car, but we don’t care if a cyclist runs a red?

How about that distracted driving law? We don’t allow drivers to wear ear pods and headphones when driving? Somehow this is okay for cyclists? And one armed cyclists travel around the city because the other hand is holding the phone? The same “put the phone away out of sight” should apply as a safety measure for cyclists as well as motorists. Pulling over to the side to check for a missed call or waiting for a text/email should be the rule for cyclists as it is for motorists.

Finally, why the race on Laurier? I am passed everyday by other cyclists on the Laurier bike lane. What’s the rush? The lanes are wide enough to pass, but sometimes the speed they pass me at is incredible. Is there a speed limit for travelling on city bike lanes? I suspect, serious bike commuters can’t wait for cooler weather when casual commuters me abandon the bikes for pounding the pavement.

Since my days on the old and long forgotten Roads and Cycling Advisory Committee for the City of Ottawa, the bike path network has improved a great deal. The city and NCC are doing their part to make cycling safe and accessible for more casual cyclists and turning them to being more serious about using their bikes to get around. Is it time for cyclists themselves to call out others who they see as being unknowingly reckless or ignorant when cycling in the city?

p.s. don’t  get me going about parents that make their kids wear a helmet cycling when they don’t.

 

 

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

They’ll be back soon, what to look for in Queen’s Park and on Parliament Hill this fall Pt. 2

 

Last week, part one of this two part blog, focused on the return to Queen’s Park by Ontario’s MPP in the session that will be crazy busy as all parties start to position themselves for the June 2018 provincial election. In part two, a look at the return to Ottawa of MP’s as the Trudeau Liberals hit the halfway point in their mandate.

While a federal election won’t come before October 2019, there is positioning taking place. All three parties will start to think about that election as dynamics have changed. Gone is Rona Ambrose and in comes Andrew Scheer and the NDP start the midway session of the Liberal mandate without a permanent leader.

LPCLet’s begin with the government and what we might expect from the Liberals. First, we’ve been told there will be no proroguing this fall. Main reason is that recently announced new Governor General, Julie Payette, will not have been sworn in. We will have to wait until the New Year for a new speech from the throne. The Liberals will want to get the old speech and promises made in that speech, like electoral reform off the legislative books.   In the meantime, they have big legislation that needs to get through the house, the most important of which, will be the legalization of marijuana. Everyone will be watching to see what that Bill looks like and to what lengths the Bill will protect Canadians, especially young Canadians.

Trudeau and his team will have to continue to navigate through the Presidency of Donald Trump, especially now since NAFTA renegotiations have begun. How will Canada respond while Trump tweets about what he doesn’t like and what he expects to be in NAFTA2? The Liberals have given themselves some breathing space with the opposition by bringing onboard for advice and counsel, former PM Brian Mulroney and most recently with the NAFTA Advisory Council appointments of Conservatives Rona Ambrose, James Moore and former NDP Chief of Staff to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Brian Topp  – an all-star Team Canada approach to the negotiations. How this works out for the government is yet to be seen. It is going to be one of the biggest challenges the government will face leading to the 2019 election.

NDPStill to be determined is who will be leading the third party.  A new leader should be selected by the time the house comes back from its Thanksgiving break. Will it be the familiar face of either Nikki Ashton, Guy Caron or Charlie Angus? Will newcomer to the federal scene Jagmeet Singh be leading the NDP from the balcony of the House of Commons? The deadline for new memberships is August 17th, when those numbers are announced; just who might lead the NDP could be clearer. Until that happens, Tom Mulcair will remain in the front benches leading the NDP. What direction the NDP takes when Mulcair is gone will depend on who becomes leader. Until then, expect to see the NDP fight the fight as the third party and trying to remain part of the headlines until after the leadership is decided.

CPCAndrew Scheer had a few weeks as leader in June following his rise to the leadership in May at the federal leadership convention in Toronto before the House rose for the summer.  Last month Scheer took the first steps in defining what his leadership will look like with the forming of his leadership team, which includes Candice Bergen staying on as House Leader and Lisa Raitt, former leadership candidate, now taking her place beside him as Deputy Opposition Leader. Still to be come is the shuffling of his shadow cabinet and where he plans to place his leadership supporters, leadership opponents and the current members that have critic roles; this will help define an Scheer era of conservatives. With the Conservative caucus set to meet in Winnipeg the first week of September, hopefully the shuffle will take place before the end of August.

Will the Conservatives be an opposition party, or will they be a government in waiting. There is a difference in how strategy will be formed. As a government in waiting what will Scheer Conservatism look and sound like? It cannot be about using ‘elbow gate’ as a reason to show JT is still not ready, nor can they use foreign policy blunders as a means to expecting the world and Canada’s part in it to fall apart. Scheer will have to define what a Conservative government would do, what action would be taken? Will the Conservatives start to work the themes that Andrew Scheer brought up during the leadership? Will we see ideas from other leadership candidates creep into policy? How will the return of the Parliament shape how Canadians and the government see Andrew Scheer? These are going to be the biggest questions for the party to decide. I expect this upcoming session will be all about Scheer showing his teeth without showing his hand.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

 

A tale of two weekends

As July comes to an end, you’ll remember that we opened the month with Canada Day celebrations in Ottawa and ended it with the La Machine, the invasion of Long Ma and Kumo on the streets of the Nation’s capital.

Now is a good time to compare the two weekends.

La Machine had the legend of Long Ma and Kumo, Kumo who had been sleeping underground in Ottawa because of the LRT construction. Here I think the City is trying to get good mileage out of the Rideau sinkhole. For Canada Day the legendary Gordon Lightfoot performed, but no one out side of the few thousand on Parliament Hill would know it, the CBC did not air any of his performances. For the finale of La Machine, CBC live streamed the final chapter of the duel between the mechanical marionettes.

500,000, as in 500,000 people are coming! The federal government estimated that half a million people would be in Ottawa for Canada Day – uh no that did not happen. Actuals were much lower. Parliament Hill can accommodate up to 31,000 people – estimates that for the two Parliament Hill performances there were 57,000. Where the other 450,000 were no one had a clear idea. The city was much fuller, and alive, during the last weekend with La Machine. The City of Ottawa changed their estimates of people attending the many performances at 300,000. By Sunday afternoon, Ottawa raised the estimate to 500,000 would see part of any of the four day act. By Monday morning Ottawa 2017 Executive Director Guy LaFlamme raised those numbers to 750,000.  Is it any wonder restaurants were closing because they ran out of food during the weekend; we didn’t hear that for Canada Day.

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Security and road closures; we all know about the Canada Day corrals and the fiasco they ended up being. There were no such security measures for La Machine, in fact security was barely noticeable – and isn’t the way it should be? Much of the same road closures were in place. The grumbling was much less for La Machine, are Ottawans getting used to it?

La Machine is based on the historical story of a temple, now in the possession of Kumo. With a weakened Kumo now awake, Long Ma has come to Ottawa to reclaim the temple. As we look back on Canada Day, we did not commemorate our history; we did raise a glass to the great monarchs of our 150 years. Instead Canada “celebrated” by the themes of Diversity and Inclusion; Reconciliation with Indigenous people; Environment and Youth. Sure all good things, but for the Canadian Government to not recognize where this nation came from? Why call it Canada150? Just call it Canada Day.

When you consider the public perception of the two weekends you cannot compare the two.  Reaction to La Machine was amazing, social media was lit up with photos, videos and positive comments that #Canada150 programming could only imagine.  The lack of security was a plus, freedom to move without having bags checked was liberating for everyone.  #Canada150 expectations were so high, there was no way they could be met.  Ottawa 2017 under promised and over delivered and the City was rewarded was a good feeling that erased memories of the opening weekend of the month.

When January 1, 2018 comes and we look back at the year past, it won’t be the rain soaked lawns of Parliament Hill that come to mind; it will be the grand success of Ottawa 2017 Executive Director Guy LaFlamme we’ll think of and wonder when will Ottawa be invaded again?

Photos and Videos courtesy of @VideoManOttawa, Danno Saunt

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.

Canada, what is on your mind?

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After flying the friendly Canadian skies for the last 6 days, and as I sit 35,000 feet in the air writing this, I can say that on the ground, Canadians are very smart and really want to help their government.

I have been travelling with two Conservative MPs since July 23rd, I am now on my way back to Ottawa. We have been in Western Canada asking for advise, hearing about issues, letting solutions come to the surface and just plain listening. What we were travelling about may come out some other day in this blog, but this is about the fact that Canadians really do want to help their government. They see what is going on, everyday in their lives and the lives of their family and friends.

They want to speak out.

They want to be heard.

They want to be taken seriously.

That Canadians want to speak out is no surprise at all, we do it all the time, have you looked at Facebook recently? My goodness there are so many people that want to spew out their anger against the government, the opposition and yes, they still rail on Stephen Harper. What suggestions they make on social media is nothing that I care to or can repeat here, #RedHeartBlueSign is a family friendly place.

Where Canadians want to be heard are in community meetings, round table meetings, focus forums, coffee meet-ups and more. What you seem to want to say is “listen to us, we are experiencing good and bad things on the ground and we have ideas how to help improve or make things you (the government) do better.

In these meetings, the attendance is much less than the thousands that might comment about what either political leader did on whatever topic is hot for the day. In the meetings I attended this week, the most we had in ne meeting was 25, we listened and chatted for 90 minutes – it was manageable. Other meetings were as small as 6, but the average was 12 Canadians accepting our invitation to tell us what is on their minds and help us help them help the government. Simply put, we asked, ‘if you could, what would you do make things better?’

Our week resolved around one aspect of government services, so the Canadians we met had a vested interest in coming out to talk with us.

Yet, here is the challenging part, really getting down to listening and appreciating what Canucks have to say and putting these ideas into some plan of action to take to the government.

As part of the opposition, our intention to for the ideas Canadians told us, is to get them to the government. When we do that, we make a case for the serious consideration by the government of what we were told. I will be told that when Conservatives were in government they were not the best at listening.   I am not to going to deny that. What I will advocate for going forward is and if I am part of a Conservative government in 2019, is that we really need to get to the Town halls, Legion Halls, Bingo Halls and Community Centres and sit down, listen and only speak when asked.

In the electoral reform meetings last year, much was said by the community, the majority of what was said was “change”. In the end the government did not offer any change. The government consulted, but did they listen?

There are so many great ideas out there waiting to be offered, really good simple solutions. The problem is that government is complex and those in government might believe simple cannot mix with complex. What I heard was that simple ideas can be implemented; Canadians have thought these things out.

There are two elections coming up. The Ontario Election will be held in June 2018 and the Federal election is set for October 2019. Ontarians and Canadians will be listening to all the parties; they will give a lot of advice and propose many, many, good ideas. Getting the political parties to listen and to include what they hear is the brave and right thing to do – listen and act even if it falls outside of normal party politics.

After listening for 6 days, I will take everything we heard; categorize it all, consider actions on the ideas and propose policy, simple policy and take it to the government or consider what would make great policy for a Conservative government in 2019.

So what is in your mind? When your local elected representative has a community forum, do not pass up on attending it. Go, listen, discuss and share. That is the only way that any current or future government can really act on your behalf. Canadians should speak up and leave the backroom strategists out in the cold of policy development.

So Canada, what is on your mind?

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I post about the little things in life I see and do.

How Trudeau blew his advantage 

Parliament rose for the summer on June 21, 2017. It was not the best of times for Justin Trudeau; it may have been the worst of times. It may have been the best of times he’ll have compared to what is coming up for him when the MP’s return to Ottawa on September 18, 2017. The reason? Andrew Scheer will be settled into his role as the leader of the Conservative opposition with a shadow cabinet he’ll select. A few weeks later after the return of the house, the NDP will also have a new leader in place to face off against Trudeau.

In my view the period leading from the election to the end of the current session of Parliament should have been clear sailing for the Liberals. They have the majority and what seems the platform the voters wanted and they had the good will of Canadians willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.

The biggest advantage the Liberals had for the 1st two years was that the leadership of the opposition parties in house at the start of the four-year mandate would not be the same when the election would come in 2019. Form the outset it seemed that there could be nothing to stop the Liberals. I don’t think they ever considered that they would be their own worst enemies.

Rather than get to work and pass the legislation they promised, what has Justin Trudeau done? They’ve backpedaled on their biggest election promise – election reform. The Liberals tried to change parliamentary procedure, not once but twice. Trudeau has been caught vacationing where he ought not to have, fundraised with rules he said on the campaign were unfair and transparent appointments turned to partisan nominations. All of this and more led to disruptions in the house by the opposition, extended attacks in Question Period, numerous votes to “have a speaker be heard”, endless amendments to government bills, filibusters in committee and motions that would take hours to vote on during midnight sittings in the House of Commons.

How could’ve all this happened? One word; underestimation. Trudeau and the Liberals underestimated that Rona Ambrose would rally and unite the Conservatives in opposition. Trudeau underestimated that Tom Mulcair would not go quietly.

While the Liberals underestimated the strength of the Conservatives, they returned to the opposition benches with 30+ new first time MPs who wouldn’t have the legacy of Stephan Harper to defend. The Liberals also got greedy; it caused them to ignore parliamentary tradition and try to ply their muscle at a time when it wasn’t needed. The muscle would be best saved for when both the NDP and Conservatives would be in the House with new leaders.

The first 199 sitting days of the Trudeau mandate were just the warm up for what is about to come. The Conservatives have Andrew Scheer honing his skills this summer as their leader and the NDP have five candidates vying to bring back the honour of Jack Layton (Read: Saving the House that Jack Built). Day 200 of Trudeau 2.0 will come September 18, 2017, that is the day that the real game of politics begins.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. You can also see me on www.redheartbluelife.wordpress.com where I am celebrating #Canada150 with a daily post of an event celebrating our sesquicentennial in Canada.

I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net.